Three-Part Invention, no. 4: Sinfonia in D minor

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Preference will come down to personal taste. With some artists, you have a sense that their personality comes across most strongly in the main structural movements of the French Suites — the opening allemandes, pivotal sarabandes and closing gigues. But one of the delights of this set is what Perahia does with the in-between movements.

Or take the pair of Gavottes from the Fourth Suite, the first purposefully busy, the second a moto perpetuo of sinew and determination, but both having — that word again — a real sense of joy. Again, examples are manifold, but to take just one, try the Courante of the Sixth Suite, its streams of semiquavers and interplay between the hands a thing of delight.

At the double bar, before the section repeat and before embarking on the second section, we get the slightest of hesitations, Perahia pausing just long enough to let the music breathe. All this would count for little were we not able to hear him in such beautifully immediate sound. Of all the current doyens of modern Bach performance, Masaaki Suzuki knows no limits to his explorations. The Pastorale, with its exquisite musette-like opening, whose subsequent C major movement trips along in a manner organists seem universally reluctant to pursue, is simply a pearl.

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The Fugue from the above-mentioned D minor is a case in point: the glistening parallel motion over the pedal at 3'20", often a bloated gesture, enticingly holds back to set up the rich-textured gravitas that follows. Inexorable momentum here is born of fervent authority, a virtuosity of combined effects without gratuitous excess. Perhaps not surprisingly, Stravinsky was beguiled by the possibility of its intertwining lines in his inventive homage of , with its supra-polyphonic interpolations.

Truly symphonic in grandeur, the work is harnessed impressively by this exceptionally experienced Bachian. Jonathan Freeman-Attwood October For the keyboard player, an engagement with Bach is a constant from childhood, and it becomes essential to daily life. For Beethoven, for Mozart in his maturity and for Chopin, it was the same.

Yet no music is more demanding to realise in sound, nor quicker to reveal inadequacies of perception. Which brings me to Igor Levit — and not a moment too soon, you may think. He played those sonatas as though he had lived with late Beethoven a long time and had perceived and understood everything. His versions of the six Bach Partitas show a comparable address and maturity.

Sinfonia No. 4 in D Minor, BWV 790

Above all, they are fresh and joyous. How demanding they are. Complex music — but not complicated. Where other practitioners offer regular accents and a perhaps over-cautious traversal, tethered to the notes, Levit never fails to project a commanding overview — an aerial perspective, almost — in addition to the detail of phrasing and articulations and the nooks and crannies of melodic lines. Only the most gifted interpreters manage both. It energises his performances and makes them seem to inhabit a state of grace.

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And it contributes to our enjoyment in another way, drawing us on as we listen and keeping us curious as to what lies around the next corner. A first impression might be of quicker tempi than usual and of a fleetness that challenges us to keep up.

Three-Part Invention, no. 4: Sinfonia in D minor scored for Piano Solo

Yet one quickly registers that nothing, in fact, is rushed or driven too hard — not a phrase or a paragraph, nor even most important the execution of an ornament. They are always a living feature of the line, arising from within, not stuck on from without. The majestic Sarabande of No 1 in B flat disc 1, tr 4 gets a minimum of graces in its repeats — barely noticeable indeed.

Bach developed these movements to make thrilling conclusions, just as he had made the opening of each work something imposing and unexpected. They help to make each partita announce itself as something ambitious and a unity, not just a succession of dances. With Levit, if you start at the beginning, you go on to the end; no question. Harpsichord or piano? Forget it. Or rather, let us have both. Well bravo to them. Bach, after all, can do the rest.

Tempos, too, have a sense of rightness about them; the slightly excitable Pinnock of old has now become a fine and subtle judge of forward motion, shown to greatest advantage perhaps in his perfect reading of the giant Allemande from the Fourth Partita, a piece so hard to steer between the hasty and the leaden. And he can sparkle when he needs to; try out the fizzing Corrente of the Sixth Partita.

Three-Part Invention, no. 4: Sinfonia in D minor Sheet Music by Johann Sebastian Bach

These are performances of enormous distinction, then, and it is a pleasure to welcome Pinnock back after such an absence. Yet even they will surely admit that these slightly later studio recordings carry an extraordinary authority and panache. It only remains to add that the dynamic range of these towering, intensely musical performances has been excellently captured by DG.

His sonority is as ravishing as it is apt, never beautiful for its own sake, and graced with a pedal technique so subtle that it results in a light and shade, a subdued sparkle or pointed sense of repartee that eludes lesser artists. Again, no matter what complexity Bach throws at him, Fischer resolves it with a disarming poise and limpidity, qualities as natural as they are profound.

Impossible, however, not to mention in passing his ethereal start to the set that light, bouncing staccato above a singing bass-line in No 1 , or the disconsolate, phantom yet ordered voice he achieves in No 4. The contrapuntal flow of No 7 — initially grand, then reflective and finally free-wheeling — is realised to perfection, and what a virtuoso play of the elements he recreates in No 15!

Turning to Book 2, you could hardly imagine a more seraphic utterance in No 3, later contrasted with the most skittish allegro reply. Since then she has pursued a steady and successful career as both soloist and chamber musician, with a sizeable discography to her credit. I hope that will not become the fate of this remarkable release. Her Bach has everything going for it: pianistic resourcefulness, keen polyphonic acumen, impeccable taste and an ability to imbue each Prelude and Fugue with a distinct point of view borne out of musical considerations.

You notice this from the start. Her C major Prelude unassumingly unfolds at a moderate pace, resonating less like a piano than a murmuring organ, while the C major Fugue sounds like a madrigal featuring four distinct yet unified voices with prodigious breath control. Her E minor Fugue keeps the motoric momentum in the foreground without losing melodic direction, while her intriguing interplay of voices in the F minor Prelude retains textural distinctiveness and cogency throughout.

She holds interest in the long and difficult-to-sustain A minor Fugue by terracing the dynamics and incorporating myriad alternations of touch and timbre. I look forward to Book 2.

Jed Distler March This Perahia does with sovereign command, and his perceptive programme notes help illuminate the complexion of his thinking. And while Glenn Gould achieves formidable levels of concentration especially in the second of his two commercial recordings for Sony , his gargantuan personality — utterly absorbing though it is — does occasionally intrude. Perahia brooks neither distraction nor unwanted mannerism. Yes, there are fine-tipped details and prominent emphases sample the wildly accentuated bass-line in Variation 8 , but the way themes are traced and followed through suggests a performance where the shape of a phrase is dictated mostly by its place in the larger scheme of things.

The opening Aria is crystalline, lively in tone and with a distinctly singing bass-line. The first repeat is rather softer, whereas the first repeat of the first variation incorporates various added ornaments, a trend that registers time and again through the course of the performance. Middle voices are brought to the fore in Variation 3 and where, in Variation 4, Hewitt opens boldly and softens for the first repeat, Perahia reverses the process. Perahia never strikes a brittle note and yet his control and projection of rhythm are impeccable.

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He makes points without labouring them, which is not to deny either the brilliance or the character of his playing. Like Hewitt, he surpasses himself. A quite wonderful CD. One of the first things to strike the listener in this new recording of Bach's Goldberg Variations is the fine quality of Bruce Kennedy's copy of an early eighteenth-century instrument by the Berlin craftsman, Michael Mietke. Its character, furthermore, is admirably captured by the effectively resonant recorded sound, a shade too close for some ears, perhaps, but not for me. The soloist, Pierre Hantai, is a member of a talented French musical family who studied first with Arthur Haas, then with Gustav Leonhardt.

His approach to the Goldbergs is tremendously spirited and energetic but also disciplined. What I like most of all about this playing, though, is that Hantai clearly finds the music great fun to perform. Some players have been too inclined to make heavy weather over this piece and I have sometimes been driven to despair by the seriousness with which the wonderfully unbuttoned Quodlibet Var 30 is despatched. Hantai makes each and every one of the canons a piece of entertainment while in no sense glossing over Bach's consummate formal mastery.

Other movements, such as Var 7 gigue and Var 11, effervesce with energy and good humour. Yes, this is certainly the spirit which I like to prevail in my Goldberg Variations. But, as I say, Hantai is careful to avoid anything in the nature of superficiality. Not for a moment is the listener given the impression that his view of the music is merely skin deep.

Indeed, there is a marked concentration of thought in canons such as that at the fourth interval Var Elsewhere, I found Hantai's feeling for the fantasy and poetry of Bach's music effective and well placed such as in Var Little more need be said except that Hantai has taken note of Bach's autograph corrections to the text published in Nuremberg in or by Balthasar Schmid. Invigorating, virtuosic playing of this kind deserves to win friends, and my recommendation is that, whether or not you already possess one or more recordings of the Goldbergs , you make a firm commitment to add this one to your library. The Ouverture Var 16 , the Quodlibet and much else here have an irresistible esprit , a happy conjunction of heart and mind. Another triumph for an enterprising label. Nicholas Anderson April This truly astonishing performance was recorded in , 26 years after Gould's legendary disc. Gould was not in the habit of re-recording but a growing unease with that earlier performance made him turn once again to a timeless masterpiece and try, via a radically altered outlook, for a more definitive account. By his own admission he had, during those intervening years, discovered 'slowness' or a meditative quality far removed from flashing fingers and pianistic glory.

And it is this 'autumnal repose' that adds such a deeply imaginative dimension to Gould's unimpeded clarity and pin-point definition. The Aria is now mesmerically slow. The tremulous confidences of Variation 13 in the performance give way to something more forthright, more trenchantly and determinedly voiced, while Var. Variation 21 is painted in the boldest of oils, so to speak, and most importantly of all, Landowska's 'black pearl' Var.